January is the start of a new year, but it also marks the midpoint of the classical and dance seasons. Here are my top can’t-miss performances for the next six months:

Wonder Women: Jan 10-11, NACO’s intense Associate Concertmaster Jessica Linnebach teams up with powerhouse conductor Karina Canellakis for Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Dvorak’s deeply patriotic Symphony No. 7 and Smetana’s Bartered Bride overture round out the program. (Watch for an interview with Jessica Linnebach in Monday’s ARTSFILE).

Clown of God: The National Ballet of Canada comes to Southam Hall Jan 25 to 27 with John Neumeier’s spellbinding Nijinsky. Guillaume Côté dances the troubled title role on opening night.

Gold medallist: Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho bested Canada’s Charles Richard-Hamelin to take the gold at the 2015 Chopin Competition. Cho has been picked to replace an injured Lang Lang for a Southam Hall solo recital Feb 27. He’ll be playing two Beethoven sonatas (including the Pathétique), Book 2 of Debussy’s Images, and Chopin’s last sonata, No. 3 in B minor.

Desert dance: Beloved dance company Momix brings the heat of the Southwestern landscape to snowy Ottawa with Moses Pendelton’s visually lush Opus Cactus. March 12 and 13 at Southam Hall.

String theory: Gifted 24-year-old Quebec cellist Stéphane Tétrault is fresh from a triumphant tour of Germany with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain. On March 19, he’ll be playing the Barber Concerto on his extraordinary 1707 Stradivarius with the Ottawa Symphony. Maestro Alain Trudel will also conduct Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra and O Java, a new work by Canadian composer José Evangelista.

Romance of youth: I know, I know: not another pianist. But trust me, Beatrice Rana is special. The fiery Italian dynamo was the youngest-ever winner of the Montreal International Piano Competition. On April 4 and 6, she’ll join Alexander Shelley and NACO for the Brahms Piano Concerto No.1. Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 and Ravel’s genial orchestration of Schumann’s Carnaval complete the evening.

Shock therapy: If you missed Crystal Pite’s brutal, unflinching Betroffenheit on its first NAC run in 2016, now’s your chance. Pite’s company Kidd Pivot returns April 6-7 with this unsettling reflection on trauma and grief.

Musical monument: Chamberfest presents the wonderful German violinist Christian Tetzlaff for a recital of all six solo Sonatas and Partitas by Bach, including the famous Chaconne. April 12 at Dominion Chalmers.

Rach it to me: British pianist Stephen Hough can always be relied upon to bring the drama and the fireworks. He’ll perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.1 with NACO May 2-3. The all-Russian program also includes Rach’s beautiful Second Symphony and the Prelude to Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina. The impressive 21-year-old Finnish maestro Klaus Mäkelä conducts.

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Natasha Gauthier has been covering classical music in Canada and the US for more than 20 years. She was the classical critic at the Ottawa Citizen, and was one of the founding critics of Montreal's HOUR Magazine. She has served on the classical music and dance juries for the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. You can also read her at her blog, www.talesfromtheredchair.com. Natasha has a BA in Journalism from Concordia University.